Unlike any other Caribbean capital I have been to, Roseau looked more local than touristy. It had some remarkable architecture, hundreds of neat cobblestone and wooden houses with ornate balconies and hanging gardens. The cluster of streets in the centre were run down, with wires of all kinds forming a tangled net above us. The developing country feel of the town was not helped by the fact that the Sewage Corporation were involved in connecting the whole place to a pipe system, and almost every road in the town was dug up. Dust and mud were everywhere and we had to carefully ease our way along the highways to my hotel on the waterfront. The Garraway is a garish green hotel near the historic Fort Young.
This part of town had been done up, the new cruise pier had been plonked on the heart of the waterfront and the associated promenade beautified. From my bedroom window I looked across the fort and down the coast southward to a narrow isthmus. A few palm trees were all I could see of this peninsula, until it rose again in a distinctive hilltop that marked the south west corner of Dominica. Every day I would watch the fast ferries appear from behind this lump from Martinique and either pull in to Roseau or speed across the horizon towards Guadeloupe. On Tuesday, the Carnival Holiday would make its regular hurricane season stop at the cruise pier and for one day the island was another Caribbean holiday destination. For the rest of the time it was largely undiscovered.
Andrew turned up in my second week there, and I was so pleased to see him after a gap of over a year. Despite the fact he was leaving for Canada in two days, he insisted he show me some of his favourite haunts. Tropical Storm Chantilly was crossing the Windwards, and for a time it looked like it might turn into a hurricane. For the first time I watched the Caribbean be methodical, quiet and efficient. People began to take the loose items off their balconies, boats were sailed round to safe harbours, everything on them stowed away and where possible masts brought down. Shutters were closed. The eerie calm of the weather heightened the little tension in the back of your mind that this might be it. At ground level the wind was still, the water like glass, but above us, some clouds were hurtling across the sky east to west. The prediction put the storm crossing St Lucia, some hundred miles south. As the afternoon dragged on, the wind got up. I was conducting some training in a large room off the main fisheries unit. The louver windows started to rattle as occasional gust blew in. By the time I headed off for the hotel, hoping to meet Andrew after a shower, rain had started. This was nothing new in Dominica, it rains at least once a day there. But rather than the heavy shower, this was persistent rain, and it got heavier as the evening approached.
Andrew picked me up in his car and we drove north back along the main road towards Melville Hall. He talked seriously with me about his work at Fisheries, how it was a mainly junior and inexperienced team that Harold and he had to supervise. He had high hopes of my training, but was worried with him off to Canada, he was not sure how it might be taken forward.
The rain pelted down as he drove carefully up the hairpins into the mountains. About five miles up he pulled in and we dashed into a local roadside bar. Like so many bars in the Caribbean, it had a few chairs and tables, a high wooden bar concealing a fridge and a stack of liquor across the back. Andrew was greeted by the bar staff as a long lost friend – it was ages since he had been up here. I perched on a stool and drank some Kubuli, the national beer. As we chatted various people came dashing in from the storm, a local farmer, the brother of the bar staff, the Chief of Police. All greeted Andrew in the same way, and we limed for hours. The beers stopped and the rum shots started, first the official Soca Rum, also Dominican. Then the local rums from the top shelf came down. There were no labels on these large glass bottles, you only had the whiff of pure ethanol to guess how strong they were. Pieces of vanilla, cinnamon, peach and other spices and fruits had been put in the bottoms, and allowed to flavour the rum. I tried a shot of each, decided on the vanilla and warmed my cockles on several more glasses. Andrew smiled at me, saying I should not forget I was teaching in the morning. But the next morning, I was fine, and what is more, Chantilly had blown over with little more than a rain storm. It did pick up in the Caribbean Sea and cause trouble further west but the Windwards escaped.